I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week. We ordered our turkey yesterday, and I am looking forward to serving a nice meal again this year. A meal that I start preparing the day ahead by baking the cornbread that goes into the stuffing and the pumpkin pie served for dessert. My stuffing, made with sausage and sage, has always been a big hit. I think people like it more than the turkey! This year, I will be serving eggnog as a welcome drink, though a cranberry-Prosecco cocktail may also be a good idea.
But before all that festive feasting, there’s a magazine that needs to be finished! My days are very busy, which means that dinners need to be quick — and delicious. I seriously crave comfort food after a long day of editing!
Yesterday I made a really tasty dinner of orzo with roasted brussels sprouts and feta. Roasting sprouts gives them incredible flavor! Just make sure you use small ones, because the big ones are not as tasty, in my opinion.
Here’s the recipe:
Orzo with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 5 tbsps olive oil
- 500g small brussels sprout, cleaned
- 1 tsp herbes de Provence
- 1 tsp dried garlic
- freshly cracked pepper
- fleur de sel
- 3 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 150g feta, cubed
- 1 tbsp chopped chives
- 300g orzo
- semi-sundried tomatoes, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. In a bowl, toss the cleaned sprouts with 3 tbsps of the olive oil, herbes de Provence, garlic and salt and pepper. Spread them over the baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, shaking them every now and then. In the meantime, heat the remaining 2 tbsps of the olive oil and gently sauté the onions over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the orzo for 7 minutes or according to package directions. Once the sprouts are baked, let them cool slightly and tip them into a large bowl. Add the cubed feta and chopped chives to the sprouts and stir well. Drain the orzo and stir (using a fork) through the sprouts and feta. Divide over three bowls and top each portion with the caramelized red onions and a few semi-sundried tomatoes.
I had a bit of a chuckle yesterday when a few gentlemen on Instagram called it to my attention that I was stirring my risotto too fanatically. Wasn’t it Nigella who once said stirring risotto is very therapeutic? Perhaps I was in need of some ‘therapy’ yesterday and that clarifies my overzealous wooden spoon action? Well, not really. Although I suppose there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything, I find that my rough-handed method results in a creamy risotto without the need to add extra butter at the end. Not, that I have anything against butter!
Anyhow, let’s get on to the recipe that caused the commotion. A delightful roast pumpkin and feta risotto which you will definitely want to make this autumn. Enjoy!
Roast Pumpkin & Feta Risotto
- 1 small pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cubed in bite-sized chunks
- 8 sage leaves, finely chopped
- pinch of dried red chili flakes
- fleur de sel
- freshly-cracked pepper
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsps mild olive oil
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 325g arborio rice
- 1,2 hot vegetable stock
- 150g feta, cubed
- bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the pumpkin, sage, chili flakes, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl with fitted lid and shake vigorously to mix. You can also do this in a Ziploc bag. Spread the seasoned pumpkin over a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, leave to cool. Heat the mild olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently sweat the spring onion, shallot and garlic. Add the rice and stir for a minute or so, making sure all the grains are coated with a layer of oil. Add 100 ml of the stock, reduce the heat and continue stirring until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Add the remaining stock in small amounts and stirring continuously. Add more stock only when the last bit is completely absorbed by the rice. You probably do not need all the stock. Test a few grains of rice after about 15 minutes, but usually it takes 20 minutes before the rice is just right; soft but with a little bite (al dente). If that is not the case, continue to add more stock and stir. Taste the rice again after a few minutes. Once cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in most of the feta, pumpkin and parsley. Allow to stand for a minute before serving. Top each portion with the remaining feta and pumpkin.
Tomatoes are still in abundance, and very temptingly displayed at my local organic shop. I buy the meaty Roma variety almost every week, mostly for salads. This week, however, I decided I was going to make a fragrant pasta sauce with them. With their succulent, juicy bite, they are especially good for this purpose!
If you’ve never made your own tomato sauce, this is definitely a recipe that will delight you with intense flavor and aroma. Besides perfectly ripe Roma tomatoes, you will also need a little patience. In the case of this sauce, about two hours’ worth.
PS: Serve with spaghetti, fresh mozzarella and a scattering of Parmesan.
Slow-Cooked Roma Tomato Sauce
- 800g Roma tomatoes
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsps freshly-chopped herbs (I used oregano, thyme and rosemary)
- pinch of dried chili flakes
- 4 fat cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsps Balsamic vinegar
Score the tomatoes on the bottoms with a sharp knife and submerge them under boiling water for three minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and remove their skins. Chop them up making sure you save all of their juices. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently sauté the onions and herbs for 5 minutes. Add the chili flakes and cook for another minute before adding in the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, bring to a boil and allow to bubble for a minute or two. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and allow the sauce to cook gently for a good two hours, stirring every now and then. Serve with fresh pasta, mozzarella, Parmesan and fresh basil.
It’s a good thing when your children like your cooking. Yes, there have been foods that Kirstie absolutely hated. Like pumpkins, for example. Or avocados. She used to almost gag at the sight of an avocado, and now she eats them happily and without protest. The same goes for pumpkin, too. Though perhaps not completely ‘happily’.
They say that children have to try some foods several times before they can accept them, and I think this is very true and demands a little perseverance on the part of the parents. While Kirstie was growing up I always encouraged her to at least try a little of something she didn’t like. And then I prepared that particular food again. And again. I don’t know if that makes me a good or bad mother, but I will never wrap my head around parents who cook separately for their children. I am, by no means, judging. We all do what we think is right for our families.
For me, one of the greatest compliments is when Kirstie asks me if I can make a particular dish again. It implies that the meal was memorable. Perhaps it will be one of those dishes she’ll make for her own family some day, seasoning it with plenty of fond memories of her childhood at home.
So last Friday, when she asked me when I would be making pasta with blue cheese again, I promised her I’d make it very soon. And that’s what I brought to the table in my beautiful dark blue Le Creuset casserole last night. I must say that I gave the dish a new twist. Improved it, in my opinion. Whereas in the past I used too many ingredients (chicken or bacon, leeks, mushrooms), I decided to keep it a little more sober this time, and to make it vegetarian.
The combination of flavors is a perfect marriage between the sharp, woodsy and slightly herbal Gorgonzola piccante; the crisp, toasted walnuts and a crowning of sweet, caramelized red onions. It’s also a dish that you can make in under twenty minutes, which makes it all the more appealing.
Tagliatelle with Gorgonzola, Walnuts and Caramelized Red Onions
- 75g walnuts
- 2 knobs of butter
- 2 medium red onions, halved and sliced
- 325g tagliatelle
- 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 120ml dry white wine
- 2 tbsps crème fraîche
- 225g Gorgonzola piccante, cubed
- 200g fresh spinach leaves
- fleur de sel
- freshly cracked pepper
Toast your walnuts briefly in a small ungreased frying pan, chop them roughly and set them aside. Wipe the pan and melt one knob of the butter. Sauté your onions, stirring frequently. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to the boil for your tagliatelle. Add salt to the water before adding in your dried pasta. Cook al dente for approximately 6-7 minutes. It may be a good idea to check the packet instructions on the particular brand you choose. I always give my pasta a minute or two less than indicated. While your pasta cooks, melt the other knob of butter in a large, shallow casserole and add the garlic, making sure it doesn’t brown. Do this over a low heat. After a few minutes, increase the heat and immediately add the wine. Allow this to bubble for about three minutes before whisking in the cream and 3/4 of the cheese. Now add the spinach and a tablespoon of the cooking water from the pasta. Give the spinach a few minutes to wilt and let the sauce thicken. Drain the pasta and stir through the sauce. Season with salt if desired, though the gorgonzola provides enough flavor on its own. Scatter with the rest of the cheese and the walnuts. Top with the caramelized onions and finish with a good grating of fresh pepper.